Come, follow Me

Scripture     Matthew 4:12-23


As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,

Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother,

casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.

And he said to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”

Immediately they left their nets and followed him.



Today’s Gospel account speaks to me at many levels of experience. Just three years ago while I was on pilgrimage through the Holy Land, we spent three days at a kibbutz along this beautiful Sea of Galilee. One evening after spending hours on my porch eating a little picnic supper and resting in solitary contemplation gazing out upon the water my heart seemed to sink into a deep celebration of what it has meant to me to be in discipleship of this Jesus of Nazareth throughout these many decades. I walked down to the shoreline and sat with my feet in the water and imagined the ‘day and the hour’ of that first knowing I was being called to follow Jesus. It was so easy to ‘follow him’ in those early years. The leaving behind my family and forgoing the pursuit of university studies was seemingly effortless as the enthusiasm for the new adventure into deeper intimacy with this person of Christ was all consuming. The initial call is always so charged with the ‘all-loving’ look and claim upon one’s heart. It seems like there was this mysterious affirmation deep within myself that moved me in what I can now call … an “existential inability to be or become or do otherwise.”  Over the decades there has been maturing vocational awareness and commitment shifts but always that fundamental stance of increased loving receptivity to the One calling me. ‘Immediately they left…”.


That night my thoughts went back in time to imagine those strong and able-bodied fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John who first heard their ‘call to leave everything and follow Jesus’ along these very shores of the Sea of Galilee.  Like them, we too, in our young adult lives, were invited into discipleship with a great gentleness and ease. We were simply going about the daily business of our lives. There was nothing exceptional about our lives. The call is always experienced as radical gift! These fishermen with their boats and nets and cleaning up are approached by Jesus who stops and speaks directly to them. It seems like such a simple, uncomplicated, genuine gesture of invitation and then they are given a new purpose, a new mission.  


Jesus calls people as they are, from where they are, being who they are. As Jesus walks beside the water, the soon-to-be-disciples are engaged in their everyday jobs - earning a living for themselves and their families by fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They are probably at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder; their work is dirty and physically challenging, and it demands their attention from sunrise to sunset. Jesus does not seem to be bothered by their grimy fingernails, their wet and dirty clothing, not even by their low social status or lack of political power. Jesus does not demand that they shower up before joining his mission, nor does he ask questions about their education, their abilities, nor their availability for an extended time away from home. Imagine Jesus today slipping into your home or workplace and looking at you, capturing your heart and saying to YOU…  ‘Come follow me.” 


To Simon and Andrew, Jesus promises to expand their skills. These men who cast nets for fish will one day catch people, instead. As for the sons of Zebedee, James and John, they receive only a call with no hints about what follows, no details about the mission, no promises of success. Remarkably, all four of these people, just as they are, follow after this stranger who interrupts their daily routine. All that is asked of them at this point is simply that they follow - as they are, from where they are, being who they are. This is true for all the followers of Jesus who come after them. We simply begin walking in the WAY and learn as we go along. The meaning of their choice - and our choice - will unfold only over time. 


God's call invites and empowers choices. Jesus himself might have preferred to stay in the Judean wilderness, where "the angels came and waited on him". But when the news comes to him about John's arrest, he makes a different choice. He withdraws from the desert and goes to the Galilee district, where he calls his first disciples, preaches the Sermon on the Mount, begins his ministry of healing, and teaches what it means to be the Messiah who is "God with us."


Those first disciples, for their part, might have preferred to keep their fishing jobs, to remain with their families, to stay with the life that they knew. When they see Jesus and hear his words to them, they make a different choice. They take a risk, step out in faith, leave behind all that was comfortable and secure. They choose to follow Jesus.  The early period of their discipleship was marked by hours of listening to the Master’s teaching, grappling with the questions, mulling over the parable stories of the Kingdom of God.


Spiritual beginnings are often filled with enthusiasm. The expectation of new adventures excites and challenges us to keep moving ahead. There is such a joy in ‘following Jesus.’ Who is this holy One? How can I become more like this Jesus? Make me a ‘kingdom’ person? Teach me how to become a ‘fisher of souls’. Our ‘vocation’ supports us when the going get rough and the way wearisome. We fish, but do not always catch. We labour in ministry but do not always see the fruit of our efforts. What is asked of us is fidelity to our calling and to the One calling. Keep fishing… keep fishing …


Inevitability in time we enter a maturing phase in living out our unique vocational calling. A ‘dark night’ comes upon us and we undergo the purifying and consuming aspects of God’s love. We are thrust deeper into the refining fire and come to see our entire ‘vocation’ as an invitation to love and be loved. We intuitively seem to know that we must abandon in faith to the deeper mystery, surrender into the not-knowing, and finally rest in quiet peace out upon the deep waters. It is such a joy to be invited by Jesus to “put out into the deep water.”  Following Christ is a journey of a lifetime… one step at a time!


Therese of Lisieux wrote in her autobiography: “Love gave me the key to my vocation…. I came to understand that the Church has a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love… I could see that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places… in a word, it was eternal. Then, overwhelmed with joy, I exclaimed:  O Jesus, my Love… at last I have discovered my calling… my vocation is love! In the heart for the church, I shall be love. Thus, I shall be everything and my yearning will be fulfilled.”


Carrying Grace       Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.




#1 arletteh 2011-01-23 13:28
Where is the “place” to start one’s vocation work? Jesus started in Judea , where he had been baptized by John. Politically, it turned out to be dangerous territory. Jesus “withdrew” to Galilee. How gentle, as you say, was his invitation to the first disciples (and to us): “Come, follow me.” Galilee of the nations, that dark, diverse mixture of peoples, received a great Light .The response by those invited was immediate! Jesus felt at home! His gentle message, his good news were welcomed, and he was able to do his work. He healed many!

You must LOGIN to add a comment.